The Blog

Stopping Russia Next Time

The need for an Eastern European security alliance.

10:00 AM, Aug 15, 2008 • By CHARLIE SZROM
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Some of these countries have already created an organization whose example could build towards this goal. Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova (GUAM) created the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development in the late 1990s to balance the CIS and Russian influence.

Poland, the GUAM nations, and the Baltic states should build upon GUAM's cooperation to form a new Eastern European Security Alliance (EESA). Now, with potential member nations under threat as never before, the organization could fulfill the goals GUAM envisioned.

GUAM discussed creating a joint peacekeeping force at its July 2007 Baku summit. EESA should embrace theses security goals and GUAM's small steps towards security cooperation; the EESA's status as a new organization will set it apart and let it take action so that it can avoid becoming the debating society GUAM sometimes is.

Russia and the separatist area governments will surely protest the creation of such a force. If EESA cannot station peacekeepers inside contested areas due to such objections, the force should deploy in EESA member state territory around conflict zones to prevent actual or threatened invasions.

America should provide encouragement, funds, logistical support, and extensive training to create such a force. Washington has already started to recognize the wisdom of supporting regional forces by acceding to Polish demands for greater military aid in the missile defense deal completed on August 14.

EESA forces should focus on improving joint multinational military capacities. The major land force priority should focus on training troops to adapt tactically to the blitzkrieg-like maneuvers that Russian forces used to rout the Georgians.

EESA units would never achieve air parity with the large Russian air fleet, but it could improve integrated air defense to increase the cost, through more aircraft shoot-downs, of conflict for Russia--making war less likely and fighting with Russia, if it should occur, less likely to result in paralysis of the victims of Russian assault.

Russia cut Georgia off from the outside world by sinking at least one Georgian ship at sea to prove it could blockade the Caucasian nation. In a conflict scenario, naval assets from countries outside the Black Sea would have a difficult time gaining access to the body of water as Turkey would hesitate to allow access for fear of abrogating the control over the Bosporus Strait given to Ankara by the 1936 Montreux Convention.

EESA should work together to build a competent naval force native to the Black Sea to counter Russian attempts to dominate the open waters. Only 495 sailors compose Georgia's navy, and Moldova does not have a coast. Ukraine maintains the only somewhat viable Black Sea navy among the EESA countries, yet it operates only one submarine. The United States could accelerate development of a naval force by providing EESA with several Virginia-class New Attack Submarines to help close the gap with Russia.

America, NATO, the UN, and Europe have shown their unwillingness to aid Georgia's security in a time of crisis. As Russian revanchism threatens all eight of the EESA states, they share an interest in defending against Russian aggression. The example of Lebanon, with UNIFIL's failure to disarm Hezbollah, shows that international peacekeepers without a direct national interest in keeping the peace almost never assist a host nation in dangerous times.

As our administration and NATO do not seem to have the will to back up our allies in times of need for the present being, the solution to security threats lies in building up regional alliances. By empowering security organizations such as the Eastern European Security Alliance, we can provide a practical safety option for our allies in times of need and rebuild goodwill over time.

Charlie Szrom works in foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute.